Carolands is a 65,000 square foot American Renaissance home. It was designed by internationally renowned French architect, Paul-Ernest Sanson as an adaptation of the Vaux-le-Vicomte, the remarkable chateau that inspired Louis XIV to build the Palace of Versailles. It was commissioned by Harriet Pullman Carolan, the Pullman train car heiress, to entertain royal visitors to the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition.
Over time the estate went into decline as various owners took possession and the original 554 acres were subdivided. The Countess Lillian Remillard Dandini resided there and attempted to maintain it, ultimately bequeathing it to the Town of Hillsborough for a cultural center. Hillsborough declined to accept so the property returned to private ownership as others sought solutions to its use and the burden of maintenance.
Ann Johnson had an interest in historic houses, having grown up in one that her grandfather had restored in New Jersey. She, with many of her fellow citizens, observed with dismay the continued deterioration of the long vacant chateau. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and other important preservation institutions were greatly concerned about the fate of the house. The outlook was bleak. Finally, Ann decided to do something about it. With the aid and support of her husband, she acquired the property and embarked on the truly remarkable effort of restoring it to its original grandeur, an effort taking over four years.
Ann Johnson moved to Hillsborough, California in 1973, with her husband, Charles B. Johnson, who came for the purpose of establishing and building Franklin Resources, Inc., into the giant mutual fund company that it has become. While supporting her husband in his successful effort, she had seven children, who have in turn added 17 grandchildren to their lives. While her children were still young, Ann applied to and was admitted to Stanford University School of Medicine, where she successfully secured her MD degree with a specialty in Psychiatry. Then, while balancing her other responsibilities, she established a practice in San Mateo in psychiatry/pyschopharmacology.
Ann retired from the board of directors of Martek Biosciences Corp. which innovates in developing nutrients for the neurological and mental development of infants and children. The company tracks people who have received their products with a database called The Johnson Index, named in honor of Ann who suggested it. Her community interests include the California Academy of Sciences and the San Francisco Opera, where she serves on the boards of directors.